Chess Classes in Salt Lake Valley of Utah

I’ll be teaching chess classes for beginners at the Copperview Recreation Center in Midvale, with two classes scheduled to begin on Thursday evening, September 7, 2017. The cost is only $25 for the month (four lessons). Choose whichever class would be best for you: Early-beginner or mid-level beginner. For more information go here:

Chess Classes for Beginners in Utah


Whitcomb demonstrates winning a chess end game

Trapezoid position in the queen-versus-rook endgame of chess


Four Major Types of Thinking by Masters

  1. MaCaTa – Calculating: possible mate or capturing or tactical themes
  2. Positional perspective: strategy
  3. Obtaining or maintaining an initiative
  4. Imagining what position might arise in the future

What is MaCaTa? It stands for mate-capture-tactic, three aspects of tactical thinking, generally in that order. I’ll not likely go into much detail on MaCaTa in the early-beginner chess class at the Copperview Recreation Center in September, but it’s likely to get more attention in the mid-level-beginner class.

White to move - What is BEST?

White to move, what is best?

In the above chess position, what is the best that White can do? (See the answer at the bottom of this blog post.)

The first priority in chess thinking should be simple calculating, with the following priority generally best (MaCaTa):

  1. Is a checkmate possible in the position or likely in the very near future? (“Ma”)
  2. Is capturing possible now or in the near future, and with what consequences? (“Ca”)
  3. Is a tactical theme possible now or in the near future? (“Ta”)

Positional perspective: strategy

Many chess beginners may misunderstand the foundation of quality chess play, thinking that strategic principles need to be memorized to greatly improve to a post-beginner level. In reality, the following principles play an important role, yet they are not nearly as important as MaCaTa:

  • In the opening, develop knights before other pieces like bishops, rooks, and queen.
  • Control the center with pawns and/or pieces.
  • Avoid doubled pawns, especially doubled isolated pawns.
  • Castle within the first ten or so moves.
  • In the middle game, put one or more rooks on one or more open or semi-open files.

Following at least some of the above suggestions can be helpful, at least sometimes. But calculating tactically is fare more important, almost always. Winning chess games is mostly figuring captures and tactical combinations better than your opponent does. That kind of calculating is extremely important.


The third and fourth types of chess thinking can be very helpful in advancing to become a chess master, but the first two, tactics, and basic strategy, are important in advancing to beyond the beginner stage of play.

Regarding the diagram “White to move, what is best?”

First look at any checkmate possibility. Notice that Qf7 immediately wins the game for White, for it’s checkmate. It would be far better to win immediately than to win your opponent’s queen or fork the opponent’s king and rook.



Queen vs Rook – Trapezoid position

Derek Grimmell calls this the trapezoid, a key position in the queen-versus-rook endgame. Although it may look innocent enough, black has no move that does not quickly lose.


Private chess lessons in the Salt Lake Valley

I have found a number of roads to learning to play chess on a higher level:

1. Join a chess club and compete informally against a variety of players
2. Read and study chess books, using the best methods of practice
3. Record each of your games, to later analyze both errors and good moves
4. Take private chess lessons from a qualified tutor (not necessarily a master)


Chess Class – India Cultural Center

To promote and preserve the educational and socio-cultural traditions of people of Asian Indian ethnic heritage, Indo-Americans and Friends of India and to organize and develop arts, charitable, social, cultural and educational activities of interest to them.


Fall Chess Tournaments in Utah

By the chess coach and author Jonathan Whitcomb

Low-cost chess lessons are available in the Salt Lake Valley, from the chess tutor Jonathan Whitcomb, of Murray, Utah. Please call 801-590-9692 for more information about private (and group) chess instruction, which lessons cost only $25 each.

Update: Fall Chess Tournament in Central Utah in 2017

The Young Living Chess Tournament for children will be held on Saturday, Oct 28, 2017, near Mona, Utah. The entry fee is only $5 per child (at the door), but registration is requested before Oct 12th. Phone the tournament director for more information:

Jonathan Whitcomb 801-590-9692

Free Chess Tournament in South Jordan on October 29, 2016

Children of many ages participated in a three-round free chess tournament at the South Jordan Library, and three chess instructors watched the competition. We hope that other free tournaments can be held at this public library in 2017, possibly as early as January.

Eighteen young chess players competed, with three of them getting a perfect 3-0 score by the end of the afternoon: Moses Samuelson-Lynn, Paxton Cichos, and Aiden Gandhi. The tournament was directed by the chess teacher Alexander Gustafsson, and I, Jonathan Whitcomb (another chess instructor), helped a bit.


chess tournament for children in South Jordan, UtahSometimes a chess tournament is not so busy, especially after most games are done

This event was less formal than many chess tournaments, not being rated by the United States Chess Federation, but it allowed the children to gain experience without having to worry about the expense (it was free).


children play chess in a tournament in Utah

A young tournament competitor records a move in chess notation


At the end of the tournament, I analyzed the results and found a fascinating statistic: The children from 8-9 years old did much better than those 10-13 years old, and I mean MUCH better: The younger group scored 65%; the older, only 36%.

Then I saw an explanation: Those who had a chess coach before the tournament scored 75%; those without a coach, only 33%. Formal face-to-face chess training makes a huge difference: 88% of the 8-9 year-olds had a chess tutor, but none of the 10-13 year-olds did.

(Two of the eighteen competitors registered for the tournament on the day of the even, so I don’t know their ages or whether or not they have a chess coach.) I do know that taking chess lessons can greatly improve a child’s ability to compete in the royal game. None of my own students, unfortunately, were able to compete on this day.


two children compete in a game of chess in Utah

A moment of concentration in a chess game


children in a chess tournament in UtahIt was a long afternoon of chess competition


Utah Open Chess Tournament of 2016

This event, sponsored by the Utah Chess Association and rated by the United States Chess Federation, was held from November 4-5, 2016, in four separate sections in Salt Lake City. The strongest competition was in the “Open-2” section (with 29 players):

  • Two National Masters
  • One Candidate Master
  • Three First Category players

The following seven competitors scored at least 3½ points:

  • Bryan B. Leano  (4½-½)
  • Hans M. Morrow  (4-1)
  • Alexander K. Gustafsson  (3½-1½)
  • Eric Hon  (3½-1½)
  • Randy D. Zumbrunnen  (3½-1½)
  • David Vasquez  (3½-1½)
  • Luis A. Goodrich  (3½-1½)


Chess Lessons in the Salt Lake Valley

Jonathan Whitcomb is one of a number of chess teachers (private chess tutors) in the SLV of Utah. Several things may set him apart from other chess instructors, however:

  • Private lessons are only $25 each
  • The first getting-acquainted session is free
  • He is the author of a chess book: Beat That Kid in Chess
  • He can drive to your home for chess lessons

There’s no extra charge for his driving to your home for chess instruction, provided you live in the Salt Lake Valley. Call 801-590-9692 for more information.



Low-cost chess lessons in Utah

Chess Coach Jonathan Whitcomb, of Murray, Utah (author of the book “Beat That Kid in Chess”), offers private and group lessons in the Salt Lake Valley . . .


2016 Utah Open Chess Championship

This tournament, held early in November, had four sections


Chess Coach (Whitcomb) in the Salt Lake Valley

This chess coach (who lives in Murray) is now offering private and group lessons in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah . . . [cities include] Belmont Heights, Cottonwood Heights, Taylorsville, Holladay, Kearns, Midvale, West Jordan . . . $25 per lesson.


Chess Instruction in Utah

Your chess instruction will be precisely arranged according to your individual needs, to most effectively help you improve in your chess-playing abilities.


Chess Tournament for Children

Eighteen young chess warriors competed in a tournament on Saturday, October 29, 2016, at the South Jordan Library of the Salt Lake Valley in Utah. The chess tournament director, Alexander Gustafsson, a chess instructor and one of the top rated players in Utah . . .


Chess Lessons in Salt Lake City Area

By Jonathan Whitcomb, a chess coach in Murray, Utah

A generic online chess lesson cannot equal the value of a quality face-to-face session of chess instruction, yet the following may help you improve your skill in playing the royal game. My private chess lessons are individualized for each student and cost only $25 per one-hour session. A face-to-face coaching lesson allows me to come to understand how a student thinks about particular chess positions and how that student makes decisions about what move to make on the chess board. That allows the student to get exactly what is most needed in chess instruction.

Different Kinds of Chess Beginners

Before getting into a brief online chess training for beginners, let’s be clear about two kinds of novices in the royal game:

  1. Knows nothing, or nearly nothing, about the rules of chess
  2. Knows most, or all, of the rules but has little skill in playing the game

This post, “Chess Lessons in Salt Lake City Area,” is mainly for the second kind of beginner, yet let’s consider the first one, before moving on.

I recently began a new style of chess instruction for teaching the first kind of beginner. Instead of just demonstrating how each of the six types of pieces moves, I showed this chess beginner how to checkmate a lone king with a queen and king. She was given a choice between three different squares that the queen could move to, all three squares being close to the opposing king. She naturally learned how the queen moves by making the moves herself, rather than just watching me move the queen around.

But let’s move on to the brief lesson for beginners who know at least some of the rules.

Brief Online Chess Lesson

If you are a chess beginner who knows most of the rules of the game, how long does it take you to find the best move for White in the following position? If you quickly found the best move, and you’re positive it is the best move, this mini-lesson may be too easy for you. You might try “queen versus rook endgame.”

What is the best queen move for White?

White to move, what is best?

If you did not quickly find the best move in the above position, please look at the following diagram, which gives you four choices (out of many) for a queen move:

Which of these four squares is best for the white queen to move to?

Which of these four squares should the queen move to? (h4, f6, f7, or f8)

Let’s look at the position after White moves the queen to f7:

White made the blunder of causing a stalemate

This would be a blunder, for White has given Black a stalemate draw

Moving the white queen to f7 would prevent the Black king from moving anywhere, yet it would not put that king into check. Instead of winning with checkmate, White would get only a draw by stalemate.; instead of getting a full point from a win, White would get only half a point from a draw. Moving the queen to f7 would therefore be a big blunder.

Now here’s the position after the queen moves to f6 instead of f7:

This is not checkmate, but mate can come on the next move

Moving the queen to f6 would check the black king, but it’s not checkmate

Qf6 is far better than Qf7, but it’s still not the best move. After the black king moves to g8 (the only legal move), White will then have two ways to get an immediate checkmate.

Let’s now look at the move Qh4:

The black king is now in check

Moving Qh4 is not the best choice, but White can win on the next move

Qh4 checks the black king, so it cannot be stalemate. Yet Black is not yet checkmated, for that king will now move to g8. Now let’s look at the best move for White from the original position in the first diagram:

White checkmates the black king

White made the best move: Qf8, an immediate checkmate

Moving the queen to f8 is best, immediately checkmating the black king.

Now, if you will, consider lessons from a chess tutor, namely me.

Whitcomb demonstrates winning a chess end game

Chess instructor Jonathan Whitcomb in an instructional video

Whatever your skill, or lack thereof, in the royal game, a private lesson is generally the fastest way to learn chess. Whether you want to simply learn the rules or learn to win a game, face-t0-face chess lessons can be individualized for you. That is how I prepare for private chess instruction after the first free introductory session.

I usually drive to the home of the chess student, and this is generally in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah. Age makes no difference, and you’re free to ask questions.

Call me at 801-590-9692 or send me an email to learn more. The getting-acquainted session is FREE, so you don’t need to hesitate. Decide in your own time what you’ll then do about the possibility of regular lessons, which are only $25 for each one-hour session.



Chess Instruction in the Salt Lake City Area

Before I go into details on how I teach chess lessons in Utah, lets look at a game I recently played with a child. Playing a chess game with a student is not always the best use of time during a lesson, but this particular child had few opportunities to play the royal game during the preceding two weeks, and he needed the practice.

Salt Lake Valley Chess Coach

Jonathan Whitcomb . . . is the developer of the NIP system of chess instruction (nearly-identical positions) and the author of the book Beat That Kid in Chess. This new chess book may be the first such publication that systematically uses the NIP method of instruction.

“How to Beat Your Dad at Chess”

I wrote [“Beat That Kid in Chess”] for the raw beginner who knows how to play chess but who always loses (or almost always) for lack of knowledge and skill in competing. “How to Beat Your Dad at Chess” (HBYDC), on the other hand, is much more useful for more advanced players, those who have had more experience than the low-level beginner.

Win or draw a chess end game (by a chess tutor)

YouTube instructional video: a brief introduction on how to play a chess end game and prepare to promote a pawn or to draw when you have a lone king